Press releases from the teams and series organizers after qualifying and the first race at Phillip Island:
#AUSWorldSBK– Day 2
Melandri sliced past Sykes to reign the Island
Predictions go out the window in the first race of the year as Phillip Island shuffles the pack
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) crosses the line as the victor for the first time in WorldSBK at Phillip Island
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) put in a stunning ride at Phillip Island to win the opening race of 2018, stalking his way through the podium places before being able to catch and pass earlier race leader and polesitter Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team). Melandri adds the victory to an illustrious list of glory accrued at the Australian track, including MotoGP™, 250 and 125 World Championship wins. Behind Sykes, who took second, Melandri’s teammate Chaz Davies completed the podium – slicing past reigning Champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team) right at the end to begin his season on the rostrum after some late drama for Rea.
Sykes bolted from pole and the Brit was in clear air for much of the race, with an impressive start for teammate Rea from further back catapulting him up into P2 to chase down his sister green machine. But Melandri made for close company for the reigning Champion throughout, stalking Rea before passing him and then heading off to chase down Sykes.
The Italian got past the Brit with enough time left to pull away for a safer win – but Sykes held firm in second to take only his fourth podium at the track since 2009; making a huge statement of intent in the title fight. Meanwhile behind him, teammate Rea began to suffer with issues and his pace dropped.
From a seemingly safe podium finish, the reigning Champion faded quickly – with Davies and fellow Panigale rider Xavi Fores (Barni Racing Team) soon on the scene and both soon past Rea. Rea followed Fores over the line for fifth, but Fores did make it into parc ferme, taking the honours as top Independent Team rider in the first race of the season and getting an early lead on some of his key competitors for that title.
Meanwhile for sixth, a stunning Yamaha duel saw Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team’s Michael van der Mark and Alex Lowes side-by-side, but the Dutchman began to suffer in the latter stages after his early charge and dropped back, leaving Lowes in P6 and getting some good points after a more difficult weekend. Leon Camier (Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team) made progress in the race after a crash in Tissot-Superpole and was able to come home in seventh with a late charge, breaking free of van der Mark and Eugene Laverty (Milwaukee Aprilia).
Laverty had a more difficult race day to come home P8 after being third fastest on Friday, with van der Mark taking ninth at the flag and just staying ahead of Leandro Mercado, who completed the top ten for Orelac Racing Verdnatura – an impressive first race of 2018 for the Argentinean.
Loris Baz (GULF ALTHEA BMW Racing Team) took eleventh and was close to the top ten on his return to WorldSBK despite a heavy crash on Friday, with American Jake Gagne debuting full time for Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team in twelfth. Toprak Razgalioglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) got his WorldSBK career off to a solid start in P13, ahead of Roman Romas (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) and Ondrej Jezek (Guandalini Racing).
Race 2 is on Sunday at 15:00 (GMT +11) – is this a new status quo? Or will the pack shuffle once again…
P1 - Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)
"It was an amazing race, Tom had an awesome start and it was difficult to stay with him. I kept the speed in some corners and they Jonny and Tom were faster than me in others. When the pace began to drop off, I was able to catch Jonny but it was difficult when I was in the front and the wind came up. I just tried to keep my rhythm and I am so happy."
P2 - Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team)
"It was my strongest start to a season, I'm happy and had a smile from start to finish. But I had to do a few things differently in the final turn with the wind, but luckily we'd done a lot of work in the race when the tyre began to drop off. Luckily we put in enough pace early on and only had to lose one place to Marco. It's a shame, I wanted to get the win but we can keep enjoying the racing and can continue to progress."
P3 - Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)
"Its been a tough winter and to start with a podium is a great result. I didnt expect Jonny to have whatever problem he had but I'm really happy with the result. I felt like I was fighting with the bike so the first priority is to understand why I lost the feeling on used tyres. I knew there was room for improvement, I can't fault the bike but there was something missing with the bike."
#AUSWorldSBK at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit: Race 1
1. Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati)
2. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) +1.180
3. Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati) +9.265
A day to remember for the Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team: Melandri wins Race 1 at Phillip Island, Davies is third
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team enjoyed a memorable performance at Phillip Island (Australia), home of the first round of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship. Marco Melandri took an extraordinary victory in Race 1, his second with Ducati and first on the Australian track, and Chaz Davies put together a strong comeback to finish in third position.
Starting from third and fifth position, Melandri and Davies fought respectively in the first and second group early on. As the race progressed, the Italian erased the gap from Sykes at the top, taking the lead with five laps to go and defending his position until the checkered flag. The Welshman also gave a strong performance, coming back from sixth to third position in the second half of the race to take a podium that leaves him hopeful ahead of tomorrow.
The Aruba.it Racing - Ducati team will resume action Sunday at 10:30 local time (CET +10) for a warm-up session ahead of Race 2, scheduled to start at 15:00.
Marco Melandri (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #33) – 1st
"It's been a fantastic race. Sykes got off to a strong start and it wasn't easy to follow him and Rea early on. As the race went on, I managed to cut the gap. Once in the lead, it wasn't easy anyway because the wind gusts were even stronger. The last lap seemed to last forever, but we hung on and brought home the victory. I want to thank the whole team for the hard work done throughout the winter. Tomorrow we'll need to get a blistering start from third row, and we can still improve some details, but I expect another solid race."
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing - Ducati #7) – 3rd
"I'm really happy with this result. It's been a tough winter, so it's great to start the season on the podium. The race itself was different than usual here, everybody pushed hard from the very beginning. I had a fun battle with Forés and I didn't expect Rea to have whatever problem he ran into and drop back, but I seized the opportunity when it came. This morning I had a great feeling on used tires, but in the race we struggled a bit more, especially with the left side of the tire, and the bike moved a bit too much. Otherwise, I think we could have fought at the top. We've been improving session by session, and I'm happy with the bike now. The goal is to fight for the win tomorrow."
Stefano Cecconi, Aruba CEO and Team Principal
"There couldn't have been a better way to start the season. Marco showed once again his competitiveness on this track, taking advantage of one year of experience with the Panigale R to clinch an extraordinary win. Chaz rode a smart race, finishing strong to take a podium that gives us hope after a winter break made more complicated by injuries. We want to achieve great results once more tomorrow with both our riders."
Sykes Second As Rea Finishes Fifth
The opening race of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship saw official KRT riders Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea finish in second and fifth places respectively, with Sykes leading for 18 of the 22 laps. Sykes’ second place today took his tally of podium finishes in WorldSBK to 101 – 100 of them on Kawasaki machinery.
For most of the opening race of the 2018 season Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea were in podium positions on their official Ninja ZX-10RRs, until the last few laps when Sykes lost a few vital tenths due to a drop in rear traction in the high winds. Rea had more serious issues and slowed quite dramatically as his rear tyre blistered and he went from second place to fifth, almost pulling into the pits at one stage to retire.
Sykes had started the first race of the Phillip Island weekend from pole position, having won the first Superpole contest of the year earlier in the day. It was his 43rd career Superpole success, making him equal best-ever WorldSBK qualifier alongside Australian legend Troy Corser.
Out front in the race Sykes pulled out a strong lead from the start, heading up Rea by over a second after one lap of the 4.445km circuit. He extended that lead to over 1.5 seconds, but them Rea and eventual race winner Marco Melandri drew themselves closer and closer. Sykes defended his position by responding to his pit board signals but after Rea dropped back and Sykes started to lose the very best of his rear traction, Melandri took the lead with four laps to go.
Sykes scored a strong second place in the final result, over eight seconds ahead of the third placed rider, with Rea being forced into giving up two more places at the flag, to earn a hard-won fifth place finish.
The second race of the new season is scheduled for 15.00 hours on Sunday 25th February.
Tom Sykes, stated: “I was smiling from start to finish. I had a good launch off the line on the Ninja ZX-10RR and I was really happy with the race package. We had done out homework in the test, and in free practice when we used one set of tyres for two sessions. Today, with the heavy wind, I was not able to finish some of the corners as efficiently as yesterday in practice. Ultimately, that is what put the rear tyre in a kind of fatigue mode with five laps to go. Shortly after that point we started suffering with the front in turn three, and in places like the last turn. Tomorrow is another day and I am quietly confident.”
Jonathan Rea, stated: “I had a blister in the rear tyre from around lap 16 which was really unfortunate because until that point I felt quite good with the bike. It is a double edged sword because, of course, the tyre did not stand up to the job and the way I was riding, but also the way I have been riding is not 100% natural right now. I am still trying to find a good way. We have been changing the bike quite a lot to feel really comfortable. We could not make it happen. The vibrations were that much that I kept thinking I was going to crash, like Donington. It crossed my mind to come into the pits and pull out but I just nursed it through all the lefts and finished the race to salvage some points.”
Camier fights to seventh place in Race 1 at Phillip Island
Phillip Island, Australia
The Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team scored a double points finish in Race 1 at Phillip Island, as Leon Camier fought his way into seventh place and Jake Gagne came home in twelfth at the opening race of the 2018 WorldSBK season.
Starting on the grid in tenth and thirteenth place respectively, Camier and Gagne were both able to make decent starts as the lights went out and settled into a good rhythm in the opening laps.
As the race reached half distance, Camier upped the pace and after passing Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty on lap 15 for eighth place, continued to push hard and overtook Yamaha’s Michael van der Mark with a couple of laps remaining to move into P7, the position he held all the way to the finish line.
Meanwhile, Gagne also managed to increase his pace in the latter stages and found himself embroiled in a fierce four-way battle for tenth place and ultimately came home in P12 to score valuable points at the season opener.
Due to his finishing position of P7 in Race 1 Camier will line up in P4 on the row 2 of the grid for Race 2 while Gagne will start on row 4 in P12. Race 2 of the Australian round of WorldSBK starts at 1500 local time (GMT +11).
Leon Camier 2
I made a good start in the race as qualifying didn't go to plan, but in the opening laps I got involved in a couple of battles that cost me some time. Once I broke away I was able to set a good pace and make up some positions, but
when my rear tyre went away in the last few laps I focused on keeping my position. Hopefully if I can get a good start from fourth on the grid tomorrow and we can find a setting to look after the rear tyre a bit better, we should have a good Race 2.
Jake Gagne 45
For my first race here my first priority was to finish the race and score some points which I did so I'm happy with that. I felt comfortable on the bike and the work we did in practice to preserve the rear tyre worked as I could fight in the group for tenth place in the second half of the race. There was a couple of aggressive moves in the last few laps but I was able to keep up the pace, so for tomorrow my goal is to once again fight for the top ten.
Today was a solid start for the team as both riders were able to score points in Race 1 which is what we were after and shows us we can push for a better result tomorrow. It was unfortunate that Leon's crash meant he couldn't qualify higher up the grid as I think his race pace means the top five is realistic. However, he is starting from P4 tomorrow which gives us the chance to score a good result tomorrow. Jake was also able to make a step during the race and move up from his grid position and get in the fight for tenth position, he learned a lot today in terms of tyre management so for Race 2 we are also confident another good result is on the cards.
Pata Yamaha Show Fighting Spirit in Race 1 at Phillip Island
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team put in a spirited performance despite suffering from tyre degradation problems in Race 1 at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Superbike World Championship, at an overcast and windy Phillip Island. Alex Lowes started from the front of the second row and was involved in a number of superb duels during the race, battling hard despite a lack of grip towards the closing stages, before crossing the line in sixth position. One of the riders he fought with was his teammate Michael van der Mark, who had enjoyed a good start and was battling for the podium before he also suffered from severe tyre problems in the latter stages of the race, fighting to defend every position before finishing in ninth.
After missing crucial dry track time on Friday, Lowes bounced back after making some changes to his setup and improved on Saturday morning to finish FP4 in fourth position. The 27-year-old British rider then put in a stunning final lap in SP2 to secure fourth on the grid for Race 1, setting a 1:30.767, despite a small crash earlier in the session at Turn 4. Starting from the front of the second row, Lowes took it steady at the beginning of the race as he didn't have the best feeling with his tyres, taking his time to work into a rhythm before starting to make his way back through the field from ninth. After passing a couple of riders, he closed the gap to his teammate in front and the two enjoyed an excellent scrap for sixth, overtaking each other a number of times before Lowes managed to make a move stick and attempted to hunt down the riders ahead. Managing his tyres as best he could for the latter stages of the race, Lowes was closing the gap rapidly to Jonathan Rea in front of him when he just ran out of laps, crossing the line in sixth to secure ten championship points, with the result meaning Lowes will start Sunday's Race 2 from the front row.
Seventh overall after Friday's practice, van der Mark used to FP4 to focus on his race pace in the tricky conditions that greeted the riders at Phillip Island on Saturday. He qualified for Race 1 in the middle of the third row after setting a 1:31.240 on his first flying run, which was good enough to secure eighth on the grid. When the lights went out the 25-year-old Dutch rider enjoyed a trademark lightning start but made a small mistake at Turn 4 in the early laps and lost crucial time to the riders at the front. Fighting back through the pack, he was on a charge and had battled his way up to fifth before he started to suffer from severe rear tyre problems towards the end of the race. Unable to maintain his lap times, he bravely continued to scrap for every position - including the memorable battle with his teammate - before bringing his Pata Yamaha R1 home in ninth to collect six championship points, which means van der Mark will line up for Sunday's Race 2 on the second row.
The Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team return to action at the opening round of the WorldSBK Championship on Sunday at 10.30 am local time at Phillip Island for Warm Up, with Race 2 scheduled for 3 pm. Due to the issues suffered by a number of riders during Saturday's race, Race Direction has announced that if Sunday's 22-lap Race 2 is declared dry, it will follow the flag-to-flag format, with enforced pit stops and riders not allowed to do more than 12 laps on one rear tyre. Check out the full Race 1 results.
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 6th +17.028s
"It has been a tough week so far, as I've not really been 100% confident with the feeling so far. The race wasn't easy. I didn't get a very good start and I was trying my best to just stay with the group, as I realised early on I was having some difficulties with my tyres. I tried to really look after them as much as I could, to be able to come strong in the latter stages, but even with riding quite conservatively the tyres felt very bad at the end of the race. We managed to get sixth place and with the changes in place for Race 2, we will try and learn from today to see if we can do a better job in the race tomorrow!"
Michael van der Mark
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team - 9th +27.430s
"I had a quite a good start from eighth on the grid but then made a mistake into Turn 4 and lost some time. I fought back through the pack and was feeling really strong, passing people, and I was up to fifth and closing the leading down group when suddenly, after 15 laps, I just had no rear grip anymore. It was a big struggle towards the end. We don't know why we struggled with the tyre, but it seems as though a number of riders had issues, so it is good they have made the changes for tomorrow's race and I am confident I have the pace to fight at the front!"
Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team Principal
"It was a challenging Race 1 here today at Phillip Island for Round 1 of the 2018 WorldSBK Championship. Both Alex and Michael rode very hard and showed that they had the outright pace in certain parts of the race to be podium finishers, but unfortunately the tyre durability was inconsistent throughout the field of riders and Michael suffered particularly badly. Whilst Alex's tyre was visually in better condition, the wear was also too much to be able to ride competitively in the last five or six laps. In that overall situation, it was good that the R1 and both riders showed such good speed. They certainly both showed really good fighting spirit! There will are some significant changes to the race format tomorrow, which it is difficult to know whether that will work for or against the Pata Yamaha team but, in any case, it will be the same for everybody and we will be as well prepared as we possibly can. We will do our best to improve the results from today."
Baz grits his teeth in race 1 in Australia
Phillip Island (Australia), Saturday 24 February 2018
An encouraging result for the Gulf Althea BMW Racing team in the opening race of the Superbike World Championship, which took place this afternoon at the Australian track of Phillip Island. Having unfortunately suffered a bad crash in yesterday’s second timed practice session, Loris Baz gritted his teeth today to cross the line eleventh in race one.
Superpole 1: despite carrying a shoulder injury after yesterday’s crash, and despite the fact he hadn’t faced the SP since 2014, Baz nevertheless gave it his all during the brief qualifying session. Having put in a fresh tyre with ten minutes still on the clock, the Frenchman was able to record a short series of fast laps. Thanks to a best of 1’32.016, he closed this first Superpole of the season in fourth place, thus qualifying on the fifth row of the grid for race one.
SBK - Race 1: Loris got away very well from fourteenth on the grid, moving up into eighth place already through the first corners. Oscillating then between ninth and tenth during the initial part of the race, the Frenchman started to suffer more from around lap ten onwards, losing something of the rhythm he’d demonstrated early on. The final phase, however brought improvement to both his pace and position, with Baz crossing the line in eleventh position.
"A very tough race. Yesterday afternoon I could barely make any laps due to the pain in my shoulder. This morning it was a little better in practice but not by much, I just tried to save as much energy as possible for the race. In Superpole, I was able to set a good time, considering my condition. Then, in the race, I made a strong start and got up to eighth but many riders were passing me into turn 4, I was lacking the strength going into the right-handers. I tried my best to fight back and my pace wasn’t that bad but the right-hand corners turns were a real problem. The bike performed well and I’m happy to score a few points but this really wasn’t the start I’d hoped for. Tomorrow I will strive to finish top ten, I just hope I haven’t strained my shoulder too much today.”
“It was a very difficult race due to Loris’ physical condition. We were worried he wouldn’t be able to complete it, but he was in fact able to, his rhythm slower than that of the leading group of course but sufficient to be able to hold off many riders. A really test of character and I’m very pleased with how he did; I’d like to congratulate him on the courage and sporting pride he demonstrated today. Tomorrow I think we’ll more or less see a repeat of today’s performance. If we can score a few points, we’ll then head to Thailand with a much more competitive rider. The team has worked well and I’m pleased.”
Up and Down Day for Aussie Competitors in WorldSBK and WorldSSP
February 24, 2018
The Australian contingent of wildcards hit the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for race one of the Yamaha Finance World Superbike Australian round (WorldSBK), and it was a tough day for the Australian wildcards, with Troy Herfoss (Penrite Honda, Honda CBR1000 SP), Daniel Falzon (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1M) and Wayne Maxwell (Yamaha Racing Team, Yamaha YZF-R1M) all failing to complete Race One of WorldSBK.
Maxwell was the first of the wildcards to find himself in a bit of trouble, crashing on lap two but after remounting the bike he didn’t continue and exited the Phillip Island circuit. His Yamaha teammate Falzon was the next to exit the race after succumbing to technical issues after completing nine laps.
Herfoss was doing the best of the wildcards and was sitting in 16th position for most of the race, before he also suffered mechanical issues that forced him off the Phillip Island circuit with just three laps remaining.
Over in WorldSSP, Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) had a great qualifying session, managing to come fifth for tomorrow’s race. Tom Toparis (Cube Racing, Kawasaki ZX-6R) will start tomorrow’s race from 17th. Lachlan Epis (Team GoEleven Kawasaki will start from 22nd.
With plenty of fans expecting to attend tomorrow’s races, the wildcards and Australian competitors will look to improve and put on a show for the home fans.
All the wildcards will have the opportunity to race tomorrow, with WorldSBK set to be on the Phillip Island Circuit from 3:00PM, whilst the WorldSSP riders will take to the track at 1:30PM tomorrow afternoon.
Set up for a showdown: Mahias makes his mark in Tissot-Superpole
Reigning Champion to begin his title defence from pole after frenetic WorldSSP qualifying
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) storms to the top at Lukey Heights
Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team) took an impressive pole position for the first race of his title defence, fighting off teammate Federico Caricasulo and Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) for the honour and creating a front row of likely title contenders in 2018 – setting the scene for an incredible first showdown of the season on Sunday after a frenetic qualifying.
With wind at Phillip Island and grey skies overhead, the conditions were a challenge for the field, but fourth place was nevertheless an impressive debut in the class for 2012 Moto3™ World Champion Sandro Cortese (Kallio Racing), who looked on course to take a first front row but was just pipped by an improving Caricasulo. Veteran Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing) will line up fifth for his home round as the Aussie also makes his fulltime return to the class, with last year’s podium finisher making a late improvement.
Luke Stapleford (Profile Racing) made it three manufacturers in the top six on his Triumph, with Randy Krummenacher (BARDAHL Evans Bros. WorldSSP Team) locking out seventh on his return to the class – previously a WorldSSP race winner at Phillip Island and doubtless pushing to repeat the feat.
Raffaele De Rosa (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) was the leading MV in eighth, the former FIM STK1000 Cup winner just ahead of Jules Cluzel (NRT). Cluzel, a perennial title contender in World Supersport and twice winner at Phillip Island, was up on his final sector before then losing time; the Frenchman forced to settle for P9.
Ayrton Badovini (MV Agusta Reparto Corse by Vamag) took tenth and was the man who led the way comfortably through Tissot-Superpole 1, subsequently able to qualify one place ahead of direct Superpole 2 entrant Kyle Smith’s (Gemar Team Lorini) Honda.
Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) rounded out the top twelve on the grid after his last dash in Superpole 1 took him through, with Thomas Gradinger (NRT), Loris Cresson (Kallio Racing) and Niki Tuuli (CIA Landlord Insurance Honda) locking out the fastest fifteen.
Pole position - Lucas Mahias (GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team)
"Its the best way to start the season, I'm very happy for this - last year I only had one pole position but this year I already have one and I'm feeling a lot happier on the bike. The bike felt a bit tricky today, I had to save a couple of crashes on the front which isn't really my style, but maybe this problem is the wind. It's so good to have a pole position to start tomorrow."
Mahias Secures Stunning Pole in WorldSSP at Phillip Island
The GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team enjoyed an amazing qualifying on Saturday despite strong winds and grey skies at the opening round of the 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship at Phillip Island. Reigning champion Lucas Mahias secured the first pole position of the season with a sensational performance in SP2, setting a 1:33.160 to ensure he will start Sunday's race from the front of the grid. His teammate Federico Caricasulo was also in superb form, finishing second on the timesheets with a 1:33.510, just 0.359s off the pace off Mahias, before being issued a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly in a sector which will see him line up in fifth on the grid for the race on Sunday.
Grey skies and strong winds greeted the GRT Yamaha Team at Phillip Island on Saturday but, even though track conditions were not ideal, Mahias continued his dominant form at Phillip Island. Topping the timesheets in the morning's FP3 session, the 28-year-old French rider then went onto secure the first pole position of the season in SP2. Only managing one flying lap on his first run, Mahias was sitting in P4 with a 1:33.934 as he headed out for his final attempt in the 15-minute session. Setting the timing screens alight, he pulled off an incredible lap in the tricky conditions to claim pole with a 1:33.160. It was just the defending champion's second career WorldSSP pole position, following on from his maiden pole secured at the final round of the 2017 season in Qatar. It means he will start Sunday's race from the front of the grid, determined to repeat history and turn his pole position into a race win, just as he did under the lights at Losail.
His teammate Caricasulo was not to be outshone on Saturday, as he too showed his potential on the GRT Yamaha YZF-R6. The 21-year-old Italian had displayed good pace on Friday and maintained this into the morning's FP3 session, ending it in fifth. When the lights went out for SP2, he shot to the top of the timing screens after his first run with a 1:33.795. He wasn't done there though. On his second run, just when it looked like he would miss out on a front-row start, he put in a superb final lap to set a 1:33.510 to finish the session in second and complete a dominant performance for the GRT Yamaha team. Unfortunately, he was then issued a three-place grid penalty for riding too slowly in a sector during SP2 as he tried to avoid giving other riders a tow and will now line up on the grid for Sunday's race in the middle of the second row.
After showing their potential on Saturday, the GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team now enter into Sunday's race at Phillip Island in a great position to get their 2018 FIM Supersport World Championship off to the best possible start. Due to grip issues being suffered at the circuit, Race Direction has announced that Sunday's WorldSSP race will be shortened to 16 laps plus, if it is declared dry, it will follow the flag-to-flag format with riders not allowed to do more than 9 laps on one rear tyre. This should ensure some extra drama to what was already set to be a thrilling race when the lights go out at 1.30 pm local time on Sunday. Check out the full SP2 results.
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 1st - 1:33.160
"Today we had an amazing qualifying and I am very happy to secure my second WorldSSP pole position! It was not easy because there was a strong wind in a different direction than we experienced at the test. My feeling was good but I almost crashed three times during FP3, which is not my normal style but the wind didn't help. Tomorrow, I think it will be a strange race because it is hard here at Phillip Island to open a gap at the front and it is always a very hard race as you are always battling in a big group, with everyone wanting to win the first race of the season. Every rider is fast here because we had the test, so everyone has a decent setup but I will try to win the race! Honestly, it is one of the races where you could win or finish in fifth but I am feeling very confident and I will try and take the maximum points on offer!"
GRT Yamaha Official WorldSSP Team - 2nd - 1:33.510
"I enjoyed SP2! I set the second fastest time and I had a really good feeling with my R6. Unfortunately, I have been penalised three grid positions for riding slowly in a sector because I was trying to avoid giving a tow to some riders that were following me, which means I will start tomorrow's race from fifth on the grid. My strategy tomorrow will be to push as hard as I possibly can, as with the flag-to-flag format, we should not have to worry about tyre life!"
GRT Yamaha Offical WorldSSP Team
"We had a fantastic SP2! Lucas has been amazing, he feels very comfortable on the bike and his pole position today was a result of all the hard work done at the test and during the weekend. Federico as well was superb! He had a good race pace yesterday, all he was missing was a hot lap. He certainly found that to finish in second on the timesheets. Unfortunately, he has been penalised three grid positions. For tomorrow there is not really any strategy as such, as it is the beginning of the year and both riders have the chance to win and so we have to give them the best possible chance to do that. Tomorrow's race will follow the flag-to-flag format and the team are working hard to reduce the high risk of mistakes this can bring. Thank you to Yamaha to for all their support and we are looking forward to the race tomorrow!"
Sofuoglu Joins Front Row Trio After Superpole
Kawasaki Puccetti Racing rider Kenan Sofuoglu finished third in WorldSSP Superpole 2 qualifying at Phillip Island, recovering strongly from a fast crash in the morning session when he experienced a rear tyre problem. Hikari Okubo (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) was 12th in Superpole 2.
A gritty return to action after a heavy fall in the morning free practice session saw the battered, grazed and bruised Sofuoglu get back on a repaired machine to score the third best lap time of Superpole 2, and take a much coveted front row start for Sunday’s race.
Japanese rider Okubo did not make it into Superpole 2 automatically after the free practices, but rode well to go from Superpole 1 to Superpole 2, and finally earn a starting position on the fourth row of the grid.
The Sunday race, like in the Superbike class now, will be run as a flag-to-flag event (with a mandatory pit stop) to ensure the tyres will last the full race distance.
Kenan Sofuoglu, stated: “Two hours ago I was thinking the weekend was finished but the Clinica Mobile and doctors helped me. The team had to rebuild my bike and the set-up was not ideal in Superpole 2. I have qualified on the front row because I have a good team and that helps me be motivated. For sure tomorrow will be an interesting race for us.”
Hikari Okubo, stated: “I started out in Superpole 1 today and then made some changes to my suspension settings and my riding style. There was a big wind blowing from the sea so I tried to get a slipstream with other riders on the straight. After the second lap my bike was perfect and I could go into Superpole 2. I only had used tyres by then. I pushed very hard again but I could not set a good time in that session. It was not so bad because yesterday I was 15th. So we improved and moved to the fourth row of the grid today.”
Anthony West (EAB antwest Racing Kawasaki) was fifth today in Superpole 2 and starts from the centre of the second row for the race on Sunday.
Wildcard Aussie Tom Toparis (Cube Racing Kawasaki) was 17th in Superpole 1, one place ahead of series regular Michael Canducci (Team GoEleven Kawasaki). Nacho Calero (Orelac Racing VerdNatura Kawasaki) was 21st and Lachlan Epis (Team GoEleven Kawasaki) 22nd today.
RANDY KRUMMENACHER CLOSES SUPERPOLE 2 IN SEVENTH POSITION
The first World Supersport qualifying session has concluded at the spectacular and unpredictable Phillip Island track. Friday's sessions were characterised by unexpected changes in the weather. During FP1, Krummenacher closed second, stopping the clock on 1'33.503, a time he was unable to improve on come the afternoon, due to the uncertain weather conditions. Second at the end of day one, the Swiss Bardahl Evan Bros Racing Team rider gained direct entry into Superpole 2, a session that played out today and in which he finished seventh. Krummenacher did not find the best feeling with the bike in today's windy conditions.
#RK21: "my return to Supersport has started well. On Friday I closed second and so went straight into Superpole 2. My feeling with the bike during Superpole was not great due to the wind and so I wasn't able to set a good time for a better grid position. The experience was importance for us in order to be able to improve when conditions are not the norm. I'm very positive because we have great pace and my times are consistent, so I think I can make a good race and hope to conclude this round positively. I know my team will give me what I need to be able to do so."
Fifth row start for Tuuli in Australia
In challenging windy conditions CIA Landlord Insurance Honda rider Niki Tuuli has qualified in 15th place for the season opener at Philip Island on Sunday.
Fifth row on the grid is a disappointing start to the season for Tuuli as he struggled following the big crash he suffered due to tyre failure on day two of the official test at the Australian circuit but the Finnish rider remains determined to pick up valuable Championship points with a good result in the race.
Niki said: “After the third practice my feeling was good, the riding felt better in FP3. I was quite confident that I could do a good lap time in Superpole but it didn’t work I lost too much time in a couple of places. We have to find a way to improve tomorrow the only thing I can do is take as many points as I can in the race. We are going to find a way to do it. I’m trying as hard as I can.”
CIA Landlord Insurance Honda Team Manager Simon Buckmaster adds: “We are disappointed to qualify 15th we know Niki is better than that and we know our bike and our team are better than that. It just hasn’t gelled for Niki here this week. Niki has said that he was confident he could go faster but it didn’t quite happen, he’s especially losing a lot of time in sector 4. We’ve discussed it and we need to look at the data to improve for the best possible points finish tomorrow. It’s not where we want to be but we know we can improve. It will be a hard race, I’m confident we will make a good compulsory pit stop for the flag to flag race. There are some good opportunities to overtake here, you can get some good slip stream onto the straight so you can move forward. We need to make the best possible start and challenge as high up the field as we can for the best result.”